For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define.
-Charles Baudelaire. “Constantin Guys: The Painter of Modern Life.”
The superficial pretext – the exotic and the picturesque – appeals only to the outsider. To depict a city as a native would calls for other, deeper motives – the motives of the person who journeys into the past, rather than to foreign parts.
-Walter Benjamin. “The Return of the Flâneur.”
In this course we encounter and confront modernity by way of walking the city in literature.
We will begin with two important texts (Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd” and Charles Baudelaire’s “Constantin Guys: The Painter of Modern Life”) that conjure the figure of the flâneur (as someone who strolls the city without purpose), whose shadow is cast throughout all reading materials in this course.
We will walk the streets of Paris, London, Venice, Istanbul, New Orleans, Montreal, and Hong Kong through various literary texts, following the steps of such writers as Poe, Baudelaire, Thomas Mann, Kate Chopin, Walter Benjamin, Italo Calvino, Xi Xi, Orhan Pamuk, and Rawi Hage.
The city and literature, writing the city, metropolis, urban walking, the flâneur, modernity, urban space, women in the city, the underground, shelter, and contact zone
Students will develop skills in two main aspects in relation to literary studies:
- A primary objective is to provide students with the critical apparatus for reading and rereading the city and modernity;
- A parallel objective is to encourage students to develop their own creative responses to urban experiences outside the classroom. Students will select and modify the literary devices and styles they come across throughout the course and develop their own literary voices.
The course consists of three contact hours per week (Friday 2:30 pm – 5:20 pm).
There will be two major assignments in addition to continuous assessment based on class participation. The assessment components are as follows:
- Participation (15%)
- A piece of creative writing on the city (35%)
- A final critical paper (50%)
Assignments must be submitted via Turnitin (on course Moodle page). More detailed instructions and guidelines will follow.
Students are expected to purchase a copy of (a) Rawi Hage’s novel Cockroach (ISBN: 9780887848346) and of (b) Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice (trans. Michael Henry Helm, ISBN: 9780060576172)
Alternatively, you can choose to obtain digital copies of these two works via the following links:
A course pack that contains all other prescribed readings, including literary texts and secondary materials, for the course will be uploaded on course Moodle page.